Fork and Spade: A community food digest for March

  • Eva Fierst reaches for a crate of food in January from Sara Schieffelin, asa the Grow Food Northampton volunteers load a van at the Northampton Survival center to deliver to Meadowbrook. Gazette file photo

For the Gazette
Published: 3/11/2021 3:28:18 PM

With the sap rising and temperatures warming — and perhaps the real end of the pandemic in sight — energy is gathering everywhere. So many community organizations have exciting events and programs planned this month to help turn that energy into sustained community change that your Fork and Spade moderator won’t waste a lot of time with an introduction today. Read on to be energized!

Holyoke Seedling CSA

The Holyoke Food and Equity Collective, a new anti-racist community organization founded in 2020, is working to create better access to healthy food in Holyoke by building food sovereignty. In their first year, they recovered over 50,000 pounds of excess produce from farms around the Connecticut River Valley and distributed them to pantries and meal sites in and around Holyoke. They also worked with the city of Holyoke to launch an indoor winter farmers market at the Holyoke War Memorial.

This spring, for the second year in a row, the collective is partnering with Windy Ridge Farm to offer a Holyoke Seedling CSA. Windy Ridge is certified organic and has been working with the collective to create a curated seedling box for community members that includes culturally appropriate edible plants including aji dulce, oregano brujo, recao and cilantro. The Seedling ChSA, which is designed to fit into two 4-by-8-foot beds, is $40 and can be paid for using SNAP/HIP.

The shares are delivered to residents’ homes, removing barriers to access caused by lack of transportation and funding. The goal of the collective is to continue to increase the number of households in Holyoke who are reclaiming their food sovereignty by growing their own vegetables at home. So far, seedling CSA sign-ups for this season have doubled from 2020’s enrollment, and there are still shares available. The collective is also seeking to raise funds to install raised bed gardens at income-eligible community members’ homes this spring.

The Holyoke Seedlings CSA is available to anyone in western Massachusetts (delivery is free for SNAP/HIP participants) and can be purchased through the Windy Ridge website at windyridgeorganics.com/product/holyokeseedlingcsa/.

For more information on the Holyoke Food and Equity Collective, visit holyokecollective.com.

Black Tie & Apron

Manna Community Kitchen is dressing it up a bit this month in order to highlight issues of food insecurity with its Black Tie & Apron event.

Nora Finnerty, board president, writes: “At Manna, we’ve seen firsthand the devastating effects of the pandemic on families and individuals, and strive to play a larger role in combating food insecurity in this community — combating the stigma associated with it, the lack of nutritious and delicious food available to those in need, and the lack of respect and dignity extended to those experiencing it.”

Finnerty invites people to the Black Tie & Apron virtual event at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 13, to learn more about Manna’s mission and enjoy an evening of music from local musicians, volunteer and guest testimonials, “a day in the life,” and a live question-and-answer session.

“This event is a way for us to let the community know about our efforts to address food insecurity, but it is also an event to raise money so that we can continue to do what we do,” Finnerty wrote. “That being said, we welcome anyone to join us for this event and have tickets available that will fit every budget.”

Register at mannanorthampton.org.

Food For All

River Valley Co-op wants everyone to be able to access its fresh, local produce and many other offerings. Their Food For All (FFA) program, which is needs-based, hopes to better serve people in our community by offering participants a 10% discount on their co-op purchases (excluding beer, wine, gift cards, and co-op ownership). The FFA is open to everyone in the community, and you do not need to be a River Valley Co-op owner to be eligible. Visit rivervalley.coop/community/food-for-all for more information.

Final Winter Market

Grow Food Northampton’s final Winter Market is here to tide you over until spring. This month’s market is being held on Saturday, March 13, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Smith Vocational High School (not at the Senior Center, which is currently a regional vaccination site operating on Saturdays).

Besides local vegetables, honey, maple products, plants, beef and lamb, you can also find free seeds for your garden this week. The annual Seed Share will run concurrently with the Winter Market, and, in addition to seeds, will feature garden tips, tricks and inspiration for the coming season.

Looking ahead, April will mark the return of Grow Food’s Tuesday Market. Grow Food recently hired a new Tuesday Market manager — Helen Kahn, whom many will know as the owner of Florence’s beloved Cup and Top Cafe (2006–2017), and others will know from her work at All Out Adventures. As a board member of CISA, Helen has been a longtime supporter of local farms, and her warmth and community spirit promise to make Tuesday Market a real weekly event. Opening day is April 20.

And finally, the Community Food Distribution Project, a joint Grow Food Northampton/Survival Center program that has been helping people access both Northampton Survival Center groceries and local produce throughout the pandemic, is still at it, with Grow Food volunteers delivering to Northampton family housing on Tuesdays and to senior housing on Thursdays.

Recently, Grow Food established an advisory committee of Community Food Distribution Project participants to help refocus the program from emergency pandemic needs to more long-term needs, such as simple cooking classes, mobile markets, access to a greater variety of fresh local produce, and community connections around healthy eating. We are excited to turn some of these ideas into action this summer and beyond.

Survival Center is here

Speaking of the Community Food Distribution Project, the Northampton Survival Center wants to remind the community that they are here for anyone who needs a hand — and that they are always looking for ways to improve their service. Sarah Pease, the NSC program director, writes: “At the Northampton Survival Center we believe that no one in our community should have to experience food insecurity. If you find yourself having to choose between paying bills or buying food, we are here for you — whether you have been struggling for a while or are experiencing temporary hardship.”

The center supplies free groceries every week in a safe, drive-up system, and even offers some delivery options for those who can’t get to its pantry at 265 Prospect St. The center serves 18 communities from South Hadley to Plainfield and most places in between.

The center is forming a client advisory committee and working to include perspectives from the diverse population served by the center. The committee will provide insight and advice on issues including the quality, safety, inclusiveness and effectiveness of the center’s programs; outreach to the community; and removal of barriers to participation.

“We are looking for clients or former clients who are committed to the mission of the Center, dedicated to the improvement of services, supportive of open discussions, and respectful of persons of all backgrounds,” Pease wrote.

For more information about the Northampton Survival Center, or to receive an application for the Client Advisory Committee, call 413-586-6564.

Francie Lin is the food access coordinator for Grow Food Northampton. She can be reached at francie@growfoodnorthampton.org.




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